Some Hospitals Have 'Fewer Nurses' Than Mid-Staffs

A Freedom Of Information Request Showed 'Staffing Shortages' Across The NHS

20.01.2014

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has shown many hospitals have fewer nurses than the crisis-hit Mid Staffs.

One of the main complaints from the relatives of patients in Stafford Hospital was that there were not enough members of staff to cope with demand and the RCN's latest FoI request has shown this is a common feature across the NHS, reports the Telegraph.

At Watford General Hospital in Hertfordshire, for example, it was discovered that one nurse was given responsibility for as many as 22 patients at a time - a ratio that health experts have previously described as dangerous.

It was also found that there was just one registered nurse on a cancer ward at Essex County Hospital, one at an isolation ward at Colchester General Hospital and one at an orthopaedic ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

This, says Karen Webb, regional director for the RCN, is completely unacceptable and puts the lives of patients at risk.

"When you only have one nurse on a ward, it means patients are being left without pain relief, without antibiotics, in the case of elderly patients it often means they are left waiting to go to the toilet, or for a commode," she added.

These views were shared by Andy Burnham, shadow health secretary, who stated that the government has a poor record on the NHS and staff-to-patient ratios of 1:22 are unacceptable.

However, the coalition has said most patients are seeing their standard of care increase, with waiting times for some referrals falling, while some of the hospitals in question defended their performance.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital said on the night the FoI request pertained to, there were only five patients on the orthopaedic ward, while Colchester Hospital claims to have increased its nursing numbers by 11 per cent in recent months.

The RCN repeatedly called on the Government to improve its nurse recruiting methods in 2013 and wants health minister Jeremy Hunt to act on its recommendations in 2014.

Expert Opinion
The Freedom of Information request has uncovered some startling statistics - potentially putting patients at risk by not having enough staff members on hospital wards is completely unacceptable.

“The Trusts which have been earmarked need to ensure that steps are taken to improve services and ensure staffing levels meet national guidelines.

“Standards in care and health and safety should not be compromised by any healthcare provider. Each patient should receive an excellent standard of care and this should remain as the number one priority across the NHS Trusts.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner